Cragg Captures 10K Title; Arkansas Leads SEC C
BY ANDRES FOCIL
OXFORD, Miss. – Heavy rain downpours plagued the 2004 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Friday night, but that didn’t slow down No. 1 ranked Arkansas as it took the early lead in the team competition with 23 points. The Hogs are on top with the help of senior Alistair Cragg who successfully defended his 10,000-meter title and led the Razorbacks to a 1, 2, 4 finish.
“So far it’s been a super meet for us,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “I think the guys are very focused. It seems like they really want this meet. We have been prepared, because everywhere we’ve competed this season it has rained. They’re running tough. Alistair is an amazing guy and not selfish at all. I am real happy with his performance. Mike Poe getting fourth was beautiful. It was a good day.”
The Razorbacks dominated the race as senior Alistair Cragg and junior Jason Sandfort established an early and commanding 100-meter advantage. The duo took turns running in the first place position for the first 5,000 meters. Cragg then broke away and lapped the entire rest of the field while maintaining an excellent pace. He finished with an important NCAA automatic qualifying time of 28:46.64 for the victory.
His finish gave him his seventh career SEC individual title and 16th All-SEC honor. It also marked the 12th time in 13 years that a UA athlete has captured first place in the event. Cragg will have more chances to make his impressive mark on the league, because he is slated to run in both the 1,500 and 5,000-meter runs this weekend.
“I was worried about getting tight and was worried about the rest of the guys hanging in there, but they all did well,” Cragg said. “I was in control most of the way and Jason helped me out in the first 5K. It felt good to go out and run 28 (minutes). It gives the guys a confidence boost to get 23 points on the board.”
Sandfort and freshman Mike Poe were able to contribute to the point total in the 10K when Sandfort registered a time of 29:37.32 for runner-up honors. Poe came in fourth with a time of 30:10.12. Freshman Josh Harper finished just out of scoring range in ninth (30:46.57) and sophomore Luis Bordes was 11th (30:53.69).
In the prelims of the 800-meter run junior James Hatch, freshman Sam Vazquez and senior Chris Mulvaney all advanced to the finals due to their finishes and times. Hatch captured the top spot to advance automatically out of the second section when he clocked a time of 1:50.18. In the first section Vazquez crossed the line in third, but still turned in a quality improved regional time of 1:48.81. Mulvaney was the last athlete to make the cut-off after he recorded a time of 1:49.27 for fourth place in the final section.
Juniors Said Ahmed and Michael Taylor were both in the third heat, but were unable to advance to the finals after they finished second (1:49.98) and eighth (1:54.71), respectively. Ahmed just missed advancing to the finals as the 12th athlete.
“I was happy about the 800,” McDonnell said. “Said was on the outside with a slow pace and got knocked out of the finals, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Arkansas showed its strength in the prelims of the 200-meter dash when three UA runners took the tape in their respective heats to automatically advance to the finals. Junior Tyson Gay posted the fastest qualifying time of 20.81 when he ran in the third heat. Gay’s performance was especially impressive considering that it was his first time to compete in an open event since the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on March 13. His time was also good enough to meet the NCAA mideast regional qualifying standard.
Sophomore Omar Brown was next with a time of 20.83 from the second section and freshman Wallace Spearmon cruised to first with time of 20.88 in the opening heat. Freshman Creighton Kiper also took to the track in the 200 meters, but was unable to advance to the finals with a time of 22.59.
“We’ve never had sprinters before, so it’s a new scheme for us, but it’s working great,” McDonnell said. “I figured they’d be able to all win their heats. They looked great, especially considering the conditions.”
Junior Jimmy Duke was scheduled to finish out the decathlon, but when the rain started coming down with no signs of letting up in the middle of the pole vault portion officials decided to postpone the event until Saturday at 10 a.m. After seven events Duke was still in eighth place with 4,643 points. In the 110-meter hurdles he earned 667 points with a time of 16.60 and he registered a mark of 106-00 in the discus for 510 points.
The 400-meter hurdles were also rescheduled to take place on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. Arkansas will look to increase it point total tomorrow in search of the team championship as it sends athletes to compete in the long jump, 1,500 meters, 110-meter hurdles, 400 and 100-meter dashes and the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
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